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800,000 Doctors to Trump: Heed Expert Warnings and End Dangerous Campaign Against Social Distancing

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800,000 Doctors to Trump: Heed Expert Warnings and End Dangerous Campaign Against Social Distancing
A woman walks to her train in Grand Central Terminal as New York City attempts to slow down the spread of coronavirus through social distancing on March 27. John Lamparski / Getty Images

By Julia Conley

A council representing more than 800,000 doctors across the U.S. signed a letter Friday imploring President Donald Trump to reverse his call for businesses to reopen by April 12, warning that the president's flouting of the guidance of public health experts could jeopardize the health of millions of Americans and throw hospitals into even more chaos as they fight the coronavirus pandemic.


The Council of Medical Specialty Societies — a coalition comprised of such physicians' groups as the American College of Emergency Physicians, the Society of Critical Care Medicine, and the American College of Preventive Medicine — called for the president's leadership in encouraging Americans to continue practicing social distancing to slow the spread of the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19.

"Significant COVID-19 transmission continues across the United States, and we need your leadership in supporting science-based recommendations on social distancing that can slow the virus," the council wrote. "Statewide efforts alone will not sufficiently control this public health crisis."

While governors and mayors across the country have issued shelter-in-place orders to the public and warned their communities that it could take several weeks of vigilance — with restaurants and schools closed and many people leaving home only for essentials — in order to "flatten the curve" and slow the spread of the virus, Trump said Monday he wants businesses across the country to reopen by Easter.

"You'll have packed churches all over our country. I think it would be a beautiful time," Trump said this week about his target of Easter, interpreted by some as a nod to evangelical Christian voters. Last weekend the president also suggested that the "cure" of temporarily shutting down businesses would be "worse than the disease," which has killed more than 1,500 Americans so far and has sickened nearly 100,000.

Following the president's statements, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, a right-wing Republican, suggested social distancing measures are a matter of partisanship and represent a cultural divide between conservatives and liberals.

"Y'all, we are not California, we're not New York," Ivey told reporters about her decision to keep Alabama's economy running.

This coming Tuesday Trump is expected to give more details about his plans to reopen the economy after just 15 days of social distancing implemented by the White House.

In its letter the council wrote that rather than treating the pandemic as a partisan issue, Trump must follow the guidance of public health experts and encourage all Americans to do the same.

"A strong nationwide plan that supports and enforces social distancing — and recognizes that our health and our economy are inextricably linked — should remain in place until public health and medical experts indicate it can be lifted," the letter reads.

"Federal, state, and local governments should only set a date for lifting nationwide social distancing restrictions consistent with assessments by public health and medical experts," it continued. "Lifting restrictions sooner will gravely jeopardize the health of all Americans and extend the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic."

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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